Archive for Trials

Troubles That Paint The Right Story

Have you ever been shocked by life’s turn of events?

I’ve had several defining moments when life seemed to spiral out of control, like the day my baby sister told me that her ultrasound showed that her baby had severe disabilities and was not expected to live. Like the day I got the call that her baby, my niece, had passed away.

Maybe you’ve experienced trials and sufferings of another sort and wondered why God would allow them. Maybe you’re in a long term trial right now and you’re wondering if God has made some colossal mistake in the story of your life.

Years ago, as a child, I remember a church service where a Child Evangelist came to present the gospel in a chalk illustration. I was interested in art at a young age, so his demonstration intrigued me. He stood on the platform with a huge sheet of paper and worked, hands flying and smudging the chalk as fast as he talked. I attentively watched as he added lines here and color there, sudden swatches of dark next to light, bringing unseen shapes to the foreground.

Is that going to be a hillside? A road? No, a tomb? No, what is it?

I was mesmerized and surprised that at the end of his talk, the final product was the face of Jesus.

paint

Do you stare at the portrait of your life and wonder what God is doing?

What story is He telling?

Why this dark trial here?

Why this heartache?

Why that loss?

What are you doing, Lord?

Where are you?

Why is this taking so long?

Do you know what you’re doing, because I’m really getting scared.

We can’t see the end while we are living in the middle, but it’s comforting to know that God has a plan for the final product. He wants the image of Jesus Christ to be seen and displayed in our life.

The Bible uses another artsy analogy, of a potter working a lump of clay into whatever sort of vessel he pleases, compressing, chiseling, squeezing, firing, proving, until he makes just the sort of vessel that is useful to him.

pottery2

The clay doesn’t get to choose what he becomes. That is entirely up to the Potter.

So the potter molds different vessels, all unique but just what he wants, just like God makes us with certain gifts and abilities, spheres of influence, and tasks for us to do.

We may be made of different materials, have different functions and roles, some more glamorous, and others, mundane, but to compare ourselves to others would be foolish because we were created for specific good works.pottery

He may put us in a place of prominence or in a secluded area. We might be set aside for a season, but our role is still the same: faithfulness to our calling and to our Creator.

pottery3

 

Trials are never fun. Nobody wants to suffer. But suffering, it turns out, is a gift. It’s one of those gifts we’d rather not have, but it catapults us towards Christ like nothing else can. And the gift of suffering allows us to have a unique, unexpected “fellowship” with Christ which endears our hearts to His, and tears our grasping hands from this earth.

So that dark season of suffering did not mar your story, but was the contrast needed to allow God’s glory to shine brightest.

And that trial we thought would nearly kill us and ruin our life, was another layer where God’s glory could be displayed, and the finished work of Jesus face would be overlay-ed and superimposed on the picture the world sees when it looks at our life.

Even when our own sin and foolishness brings us trouble and heartache, God’s grace and goodness re-paints the scene and covers our mess with the perfect image of Christ.

This truth, that God is working all things for my good and His glory,

that none of my suffering is random, helps me to trust and embrace whatever God has for my life, and to rejoice in any suffering that comes because of it, knowing that suffering drives me to Him which strengthens my spiritual life, even when my body, emotions, or resources are wasting away.

Trials put me right where I need Jesus every day and know it.

May Christ be seen in the story of my life, especially during times of trials. 

What about you? Has your life taken unexpected and unwanted turns that seem unfair and unwanted? Can you trust that no suffering is wasted in God’s economy, but that it has the purpose of drawing you closer to His Son? What can you do today to change how you view suffering and to embrace it with joy?

 

We don’t need Valentine’s Day to show us how needy/clingy we are.

We don’t need Valentine’s Day to show us how needy and clingy we can be. All we need is a day when we feel lonely, overlooked, pushed aside, or under appreciated, and the inner rumblings of our hearts and mind reveal that we’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

needy

We look to people to fill the heart needs that can only EVER be met in a relationship with God.

But we ask people to be things they can never be to us and make these impossible demands on flawed, human people.

Did you ever expect your husband to do more than he did and feel disappointed and unloved when he didn’t?

Or a friend? Ever expect a friend to always be there for you? Always support you, say the right things, do the right things, remember special days, keep up with you?

We ask people to meet needs that only God can ever meet, and we are frustrated when they don’t deliver.

Whenever we are in despair over a failed relationship, or find ourselves feeling hopeless when people don’t love us the way they should, we’ve allowed these things to morph our small g-gods.

“Whatever you cling to or confide in, that is really your god.” Martin Luther

To whom do you cling to? When things get tough, do you head for the phone? A gallon of ice cream? Sleep? Hours of TV? Shopping?

What are you banking on for happiness? Respect, kindness, great relationships? A fulfilling career? A doting husband?

Where do you place your hope? What elates you? Excites you? Makes you want to spring out of bed in the morning when you have it?

These needs are supposed to be found in Christ. In Him we have all the things we ever looked for in a friend or husband:

  • a best friend,
  • someone to listen to us,
  • someone to be there for us,
  • someone to love us unconditionally,
  • someone to be faithful to us.

Knowing this lets our friends, husband, family, and expectations off of our happiness-hook. It allows them to be human. It allows us to accept their limits. And it helps us to see the Awesomeness of Christ.

Valentine’s Day is simply a catalyst that exposes that in our heart of hearts, we need Jesus.

But we aren’t quick learners, are we? We tend to straddle the fence between God and other “lovers”: career, perfect children, romance, a Pinterest home, a perfect body, experiences, food, drink, fun, best friends, fulfilling work, respect.  When they fail us and leave us disappointed and disillusioned, we move back towards the God-side of the fence.

Straddling is no way to live. God wants your heart. All of it. And He is jealous for it. He wants you and I to love Him first and best and most. 

Let’s stop with the spiritual adultery and idolatry. Let’s call out and dethrone any idols that challenge the Lordship of Christ in our life.

Still not sure where your idols are lurking? Here’s the surefire way to know: How do you react when it’s taken from you or withheld? What gets an unrighteous rise out of you?

  • When your husband is unloving and you believe you deserve love, do you go all.the.crazy? A loving husband, though a good gift from God, has morphed into an idol for you. Something you believe you can’t live without.
  • When your “supposed” friend says hurtful things, do you find yourself self devastated or holding a grudge? Trying to hurt them in return? An understanding friend has become your idol. God calls us to love anyway, and when He is our God, we’ll do this whether they deserve it or not.
  • When your co-worker gets recognition you desired, do you sulk and envy? Respect and self-love are your idols.
  • When a friend gets an opportunity or an honor you wished you had been given, do you resent her and belittle it? Honor is an idol for you. God calls you to rejoice with those who rejoice and to refrain from envy, and if He is your God, you’ll happily obey.
  • When God answers someone’s prayers for good, can you rejoice with them when you’ve been praying for the same thing and God seems to be withholding it from you? That
    “prayer request” has become a demand and an idol.

 

Let’s let God be God and fill our hearts with the abundant love He’s offered. Let’s let our husband (and friends and positions) be put into proper perspective. They are blessings from God that we can enjoy. They are wonderful gifts but not rights. We are free to love them because we don’t expect them to bring happiness that only God provides. We can thank God when we have them, and praise Him– that He’s our all in all– when we don’t.

What about you? Is your happiness dependent on people or circumstances? Have you determined to seek God first to put Him in proper perspective?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or on FB. 

Thoughts on Waiting Well {When You Hate to Wait}

Thank you so much for praying for my niece, Addy. Her latest update is here and now all we can do is pray and wait and see if her spine straightens enough for the second surgery.

Waiting has been on my mind lately since we’ve been doing so much of it.

I’ve been thinking about what waiting is good for, and how to wait well when you really hate it and are 100% unable to change your situation.

hate to wait

 

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t wait. The cashier at the grocery store would be focused and quick, the doctor would see my kids at the pre-determined appointment time and not a minute later. The UPS delivery would happen on the day they scheduled, fast food would be fast, and the repair man would come in the two hour window he promised.

Having to wait in a restaurant or in a line for long periods of time is frowned upon in our fast-paced, crazy busy culture. We equate movement with productivity, and waiting to inefficiency, bad service, and wasting our precious time.

(I’m not sure that all of our fast paced efficiency has benefited us. Has it made us kinder, more attentive neighbors? And I’m not sure what we did with the time we saved by hurrying?)

Maybe we’re mature enough to forbear a little inconvenience on our time in the grocery line or at the doctor’s office, but how do we wait when the trial goes on longer than we’d ever imagined and the issues are serious, like waiting for a spine to straighten, a cancer-free report, a wayward child to come home, a relational trial to be over, financial relief, or for someone entangled in life-dominating sin that affects you every day to get over it already, learn their lessons, clean up their act, and grow up? Do we despair or try to control the situation?

James reminds us to “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3)

I want the patience, and so do you, but usually we want to by-pass that trial part that brings the patience.

How do we change our mindset about waiting?

Elisabeth Elliot gives this insight: “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”

Waiting should realign our will to God’s. It gives us time to grow, and is a necessary dormancy, a season of rest, like a God-given time to learn, take in, draw closer, and rejuvenate our spirit,  like the ground as it rests in winter tucked under a blanket of snow.

Crop rotation is an important farming principle. The ground needs rest in order to produce higher yield. The soil’s life-giving minerals and nutrients are increase by resting so that in due time, a bud will break through the cold sod, bearing all the new life that was hidden below the ground.

Wouldn’t we benefit more if we stopped wrestling with God’s timetables, and embraced His sovereignty, and with eyes toward heaven willingly lay dormant–not in a depressed state– but in an eyes-toward-heaven, receiving state, like a newborn-babe-taking-in-milk kind of nourishment state.

Waiting reminds us that we are dust-made creatures who are dependent on the Creator.

It is God who works in us and through us, and His times for growth and change are His business. And His timetables for change for others are His business as well. Our business is to submit to the wait, be of good courage, expect Him to do what is best, and let Him give the increase.

The inconvenience of waiting teaches us patience, a virtue that our crazy-busy world could use a little bit more of.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Ps. 27:14

 

 

Would You Pray for Addy?

Today, I simply want to ask you to pray for my sister, Hannah, and her daughter, Addy. If you’ve read here at all, you know a little bit about Addy’s journey. With all of her difficulties, she is one of the happiest, funniest kids I have ever met and is often the life of our family parties because her humor is hysterical.

Addy

Some history for those of you who don’t know:

If you don’t know Addy, her story is here: CaringBridge 

I’ve praised my sister’s faith during trials by sharing a bit of her story here.

I’ve told you what every parent needs to know before seeking medical attention if you have a special needs child, and about how Children’s Hospital in Boston failed Addy because of Code Slow.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

Thy Will be done

I’m just telling you that my mom-heart is praying for a successful surgery and that Addy will walk again.

Somehow, when I pray the fragile words, “on earth as it is in heaven” I’m forcing myself to see the connection between the two places that I miss when life is trial free.

Trials give us eyes to see life as it really is: fragile, dear, precious, connected to eternity. Like dew sparkling on a singular spider web, we catch a glimpse of the connection between heaven and earth when we acknowledge that God envelopes both, controls both, and oversees both. And we’re not so scared to pray “Thy will be done.”

A word about praying that comforts me: I can pray in Jesus name.

If you’ve grown up in a Christian home and have prayed this way since infancy, this may seem like ho-hum news. We don’t always realize that it’s a privilege to use His name because we’ve never known anything else and were never taught the significance. “In Jesus name” can become like the closer–like a “sincerely yours” scribbled mindlessly on the end of a letter.

It’s honestly a privilege and a trust given to believers and this is how I like to think about it:

When I was a child, I was proud of the fact that my father was not only a good and godly man but an expert in his field, one of the areas most knowledgeable cranberry growers. As his daughter, I learned from observation that people knew him and respected him, so when he gave me his “permission” to use his name, as in “Go tell them to fill the car up with gas and just charge it to Larry Harju,” I had no qualms about ever having any problems. As his daughter, I was entitled to the respect he had earned in many areas. He trusted me and gifted me permission to use his name (or credit card!).

Praying in Jesus name assumes sonship and alignment with His heart and will. Jesus is entrusting you to ask on His behalf, like saying “You and I are one in purpose. You ask the Father.”

I often think about that when I do things, {i.e. pray, minister, work} in “Jesus” name. It’s an awesome gift that’s entrusted to us and one that we cannot, in good conscience, abuse.

I am praying that God’s will would be done. I trust that God has all of our best interests in mind.

Would you pray for Addy as well? And ask your churches to pray?

Thanks so much, friends.

When God Gives You Trials, When You Asked For Tiaras and Truffles

I tend to want my own way, but God tends to do things differently.

If I had it my way,

my kids would be perfect, my money would never run out, our house would self-clean, the people in our life would be perfectly kind, considerate, and just, and my energy levels would always keep up with my demanding schedule. Scratch that–I wouldn’t have a demanding schedule.

perfect

If I had my way, I’d live a Pinterest-perfect life, thank you very much. But sometimes, God’s given me trials, instead of the tiaras and truffles I asked for.

See, God knows that I’ll be truly happy when I am holy. God’s made me in His own image and while selfishness reigns, I’m defiling that image and misrepresenting Him. I can never be happy until I am living as I was created to live.

He has mercifully spared me from my own ideals, knowing better than I do. He’s seen fit to use what I would consider “strange” means to make me more like His Son. Upside-down methods, bumpy roads, unacceptable situations, and bitter pills. Yuck.

God, in His Providence, seems to have super-ceded my dreams.

I noticed in my study of Philippians that Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but God sent him as a prisoner. Not exactly what Paul had planned, I’m sure.

But you can’t read Philippians without realizing that Paul knew a secret that produced peace and joy: You can further the Gospel of Jesus Christ in chains as well as in freedom. When your mind is God-centered, the circumstances barely matter. A mind, fixed on Christ, experiences God’s perfect peace.

Bonus: Your ministry expands, as you can reach people in chains that you’d never reach if you were free.

Chains.

They’re about the worst possible problem we independent Americans can imagine. Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do or how to live my life. I’m the master of my own destiny and I call the shots. 

And yet God uses chains. They’re those things that hold us and limit us and make us crazy.

They’re the unwanted things in our lives–that critical person, that illness, that wayward child, that broken relationship. Chains are the one thing you can’t control. That one thing you’d wish away in a heartbeat.

Yet, in chains, we can praise. In fact, it’s when we are in chains that we must praise.

Every limitation and irritation we have in life must be seen as from God’s hand. End of story.

The sovereignty of God super-cedes our circumstances. They may not be planned or pleasant, but they are from our Father’s good and loving hand.

I like to picture God’s hand reaching down through the clouds to me, holding whatever particular trial I am facing, as though He is giving it to me. “Here,” I imagine Him saying. “If you trust me through this, THIS GOOD THING THAT YOU CONSIDER A TRIAL, will make you more like my Holy Son.”

My mind wiggles and contorts, trying to escape like a toddler who wants to get down off his mother’s lap and run when he’s supposed to sit still.

It helps me to remember that nothing comes to me except through Him.

The-Creation

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11

Not only does God illuminate my way, he also shields me from anything He deems not good for me.

He “screens” my life. He allows certain things and not others.

And I’m so glad of it.

 

Thoughts on Peace, Trials, and First Loves

There is an amazing peace that fills you when you love the Lord first and foremost. And conversely, there is unrest and inner turmoil when you don’t.

This week has been a strange one. We started with a wonderful Memorial Day celebration on Monday, followed by an ER trip for Matt on Tuesday, then news that my Grandmother is in her last stages of life on Wednesday, to a trip to the hand surgeon with Matt to discover he needs surgery on Thursday. These are just the “highlights”–of course this week has also been sprinkled with driving kids to summer jobs, visiting/caring for my grandmother, visiting with family, cooking, cleaning, phone calls and general life.

My grandparent's celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary yesterday. Love this pic of them.

My grandparent’s celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary yesterday. She was also put on hospice yesterday. Love this pic of them.

Not only does life come at you fast, it also gives us ups and downs at alarming rates. The funny thing is that even with ups and downs, God’s peace is absolutely amazing and unexplainable.

I was talking to a friend about this, about this eerily peaceful state that takes over in the middle of a crazy string of unexpected, life altering stuff like this.

Peace that tells you that God is here and near, that He’ll never leave you and that He’s working. The peace brings an awareness of God’s presence that is unusual and is a rare gift. “Lo, I am with you always.” I don’t need to fear.

Yet other times, when things are calm and normal, peace seems elusive. Why?

Peace has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with “first love.” Loving God first, knowing His character, and resting and embracing whatever He brings.

Obviously, knowing about God, knowing proper theology, adhering to a certain creed is not the same as knowing and loving God personally.

We make our own Christian lives hard, when we give a nod to Biblical teaching but don’t love Him as we should. Christianity becomes an exercise of the mind.

We find ourselves in a predictable pattern of…

stumble, trip, fall, fail, oops, did I just say that, did I just do that, how could I say that, how could I do that, guilt, discouragement, despair, try harder, read more, do more, study more, try more…

and on and on this pattern goes, because we’re trying to live a life of will without the love to propel it. Head knowledge, yes, but misplaced heart affections.

This is putting a band-aid on cancer instead of addressing the root issue which is our love. We’ve left our first love and have tried to play the part.

We lack victory because our heart and head are not in agreement. Our head says “A” but our heart tugs “B”. If our heart tugged “A” then our minds would quickly follow.

Love must come first. (Imagine this in a “loveless” marriage where the guy has read all the books and has tried all the tricks, but it’s clear by his daily life that there is no real love for his wife. He wouldn’t have to try so hard if his wife was truly the center of his affections.)

This is especially troublesome for those of us who were brought up in Christian homes. We’ve known Christianity from infancy, but knowledge of God cannot do what the love for God constrains us to do, which is obey.

For those who were raised in Christian homes, our minds know THINGS–BIBLICAL THINGS–but our hearts love other things. God won’t allow us to live in our own little tidy, spic-and-span, look-good-on-the-outside-because-we-dressed–up-for-church delusional worlds. God calls us on it. He calls our hearts for what they are: Your heart is “far from Me.” Far. Distant. Away.

Loving God with all of your heart is the primary thing. Trying to obey God without loving Him is putting the cart before the horse.

 

That’s why years of Christian education does not ensure a healthy, vibrant, thriving Christian walk. This is why pastors in the news can be charged with immorality and criminal behavior against children even though they know scripture inside and out. Their first love was not God and what He loved…it was some twisted, dark desire that ruled them and then ruined them. And that is why we, too, refuse to love that unlovely person, carry a grudge for years against another person, look at immorality on the screen, tell someone else off in an angry outburst, or overindulge the flesh to the point of addictions, even to the hurt and ruin of others around us, all the while donning a dress or tie on Sunday morning.

Who or What you love most rules you and determines what you’ll chase.

Our heart can be pursuing that one earthly thing, that small g-god, all the while our mental assent to a creed has not changed. Our mind affirms Biblical teaching, but our behavior betrays our heart.

When our heart’s true love is on earthly things…

for admiration, for love, for a change in health, for a new job, for a better set of in-laws, for a more understanding church, for an obedient child, for a positive pregnancy test, for a husband, for a new home or couch or car or whatever…

the desire controls us and we cannot love God as we should.

We need to pry our hearts off of temporal things and clasp on to loving God again as we should. First. Most. Only. Life is supposed to work that way. We are made for this.

Life is peace-filled and joy-filled when He truly is first in our affections. Our circumstances may not have changed, but He changes us! And suddenly, it is well with my soul.

 

How to Go From Pleasant to Bitter In A Decade

We all want to age gracefully, but that doesn’t just happen. In fact, in a decades time, we can go from sweet to bitter or vice versa. And although beauty is only skin deep, bitterness of soul goes straight to the bone and can poison you and everyone around you. Let me explain.

In times of trial, it’s easy to want to escape and get away from our problem. We want to make the emotional or physical pain stop. We can have many different reactions to trials:

  • We can play the Spartan and simply endure the trial–teeth gritted, keep a stiff upper lip– we grow bitter from focusing on the hardship. We end up being self-driven instead of Spirit-led.
  • We can try to escape the trial running for relief to friends, emotional outbursts, finding comforters in sleep, food, drink, spending, overindulgence or other “saviors.”
  • When we embrace the trial, we grow in grace because we know the Sender of the trial and His good intentions for us. We humbly accept good and bad from the hand of God. We know God is leading us THROUGH a trial and He’s promised to be with us.

Trials are always a wake up call and they are a good thing. It’s a mercy when we realize how much we crave self-rule in our own lives and how much we resist God’s rule when we are in the midst of something unthinkable, unplanned and unwanted. ruth I’m studying Ruth right now and it has been eye opening and refreshing. I was struck by this quote from Warren Wiersbe and have been mulling it over for days: “They exchanged famine in the land for three funerals.”

Famine is a pretty desperate situation, yet, God sent the famine as judgement for the sin of the people of Israel. (Lev. 26:14-20) He had a good purpose for the famine. However, Elimaleck, Naomi’s husband, decided that the best course of action was to leave the covenant community and go for help in the land of their enemies, the Moabites.

Matthew Henry: “It is an evidence of a discontented, distrustful, unstable spirit, to be weary of the place in which God hath set us, and to be for leaving it immediately whenever we meet with any uneasiness or inconvenience in it. It is folly to think of escaping that cross which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it.”

In a sense, they left their covenant God because they believed they needed bread and had to find it for themselves when in fact In God we live and move and have our being. (Acts. 17:28) This life–bread, food, water–the physical life– seemed so big when what they were used to was lacking.

Once in Moab, they assimilated. So much so that they let their sons marry two women of the Moabites, a practice forbidden by God. (Deut. 7:3, 23:3, 4)

Then all three men in the family died. Naomi found herself husbandless, sonless, and stuck with two Moabite women and no resources. She hears that there’s bread in Israel and decides to go back. “She was still primarily interested in food, not in fellowship with God.” says Wiersbe.

What she does next is strange and shows how far out of bounds her thinking was: She encourages her daughters-in-law to go back to their old gods and people. Oh, she prays for them and wishes them many children, but she cared so little about their souls that she encouraged them to return to false, forbidden gods. Instead of taking comfort in the God of all comfort, she’s so consumed by her own grief that her thinking is seriously off. “God has dealt bitterly with me!” was her testimony, when really God was doing something amazing and redemptive by putting her family in the lineage of Christ.

And we do that as well, when we’re not thinking right thoughts about our God or when we experience a “famine” or sorts in our own lives. When friends are sparse, money’s gone, health fades, children rebel, husband’s leave, we “charge God foolishly,” and accusations fly.

We complain that life hasn’t been fair, that God’s shortchanged us somehow. We emote that we deserved better, that people should recognize and appreciate us, that life should have worked this way instead of that way. We demote God from His place of prominence and praise on the throne of our heart. Our words condemn a perfect God, and malign His intents. Our sin proclaims that He’s not worth following. Hey, if it makes you happy, go back to your old gods as well, Ruth and  Orpah. You’ll be better off than where you are now. Really. God’s dealt so bitterly with me, you should try your luck with another god. 

Not the behavior of a woman who is fully in love with her own God.

How did Naomi, {whose name meant pleasant and sweetness} go from a sweet spirit to a sour spirit in less than a decade? What would make her announce “Just call me Mara! (bitter)” I jotted down a few ideas:

  • She focused on her trials.
  • She let her feelings rule.
  • She looked for help in places God forbid.
  • She ignored God’s clear commands.
  • She valued physical gain over spiritual gain.
  • She failed to go to God for comfort.
  • She blamed God instead of confessing their sin.

I’m wondering if she also tried to send Ruth and Orpah packing because she didn’t want the “evidence” of their sinful life back in Moab to be seen when she returned to Israel. Sometimes hiding sin is easier than confessing it and finding grace. Yet the Lord encourages us to “return to the Lord” and find mercy. It’s helpful when we are in times of trouble, to soul-search.

  • Am I wiling to trust God in my famine?
  • Am I content and thankful right now?
  • Do I believe God’s in control?
  • Where am I seeking comfort?
  • Am I doing what God has forbidden?
  • What do I love more than obedience to the word?
  • Is my life showing the fruit of the Spirit in this moment? If not, why?
  • Have I confessed my sin? Am I right with God and others? If not, why haven’t I?

Ruth is a redemptive book. It’s such a wonderful story of a loving daughter-in-law who chose to saddle herself to a bitter woman because she loved that woman and her God. And God honored Ruth, allowing her to be in the Messianic line. God was not dealing bitterly. He meant it all for good. And I’m trying to remember that today. My choices have consequences. My attitudes affect and teach others. My thoughts about God can center me or send me into despair. And whatever my thought life tells me, God’s Word is always accurate and His promises are true, whether I believe them or not.

How to Survive the Wilderness

Today is one of those days where I woke up feeling fully blessed. We had a wonderful weekend full of blessing and answered prayer, and received good news from our daughter in college about some upcoming opportunities the Lord has given her.

But I don’t always wake up this way. Somedays, I wake up feeling lousy. Somedays, I wake up with an unresolved conflict hanging over my head. Sometimes circumstances are 100% out of my control. Those are the “Wilderness Days.” The days when you don’t think you can stand one more trial or irritation.

David, in Psalm 63, gives us wise counsel about how to survive in a wilderness and it’s instructive to note some of the qualities of this this God- loving, yet imperfect man, so that we can prepare ourselves for our wilderness days.

To survive in a wilderness takes forethought and planning. You don’t enter a trial and try to muster up spiritual strength on the spot. Inner spiritual strength comes from building up reserves before your trial hits you square in the face.

To survive in a wilderness:

1. You desire God alone. You seek Him. Your circumstances may be dry and horrible, but your soul is thirsty for God.

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (63:1)

2. You prefer God’s presence more than anything or anyone.

Our daily worship prepares us to meet the trials of life, not just our Sunday worship. What goes on in your heart all week defines you more than going to church on Sunday.

“I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” (63:2)

3. You choose to praise God. 

When we go through trials, many times our lips betray our hearts by exposing our wrong thoughts. What’s going on inside of our mind eventually comes gushing out of our mouths! What are you known for? A life of praise? Or a life of cutting comments and complaints galore? Instead of complaining or protesting what God is allowing, remember all that He has done in the past and all that He will do in the future. Choose praise. Pray for lips that praise. If you can’t praise God, keep your mouth closed. Don’t infect your kids or neighbors with negative comments that make them question God’s goodness.

A thankful heart is at peace, because it’s content, not wanting more or less than what God’s provided.

A contentious, fretful, discontent heart always wishes, dreams and longs for different circumstances.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (63:3)

4. Find your satisfaction in God alone.

We can thrive in a wilderness because we’ll always have God. Might I suggest that if you aren’t fulfilled in God, you read Ephesians and note all of the riches we have in Christ?

And if that still isn’t enough, maybe you are clinging to lesser things for your happiness? Those, “if only’s” can quickly become idols.

You know the thought process:

“If only”…

I had more money, more time, more children, less children, better behaved children, a more assertive husband, a less authoritative husband, more money, a bigger house, more respect, more love, more understanding, more opportunities, more health….

The list is only as long as our imagination.

The better way: “Be content in whatever state you are in.” That’s it. The big secret. Be content. Don’t wish for more. Be satisfied with what God has given. God. God. He is the giver. Let that sink in. When we rise up in complaint, it is to Him and his provision and providence.

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (63:5,6)

5. Cling to Christ.

I don’t know what to say about this, except that when we are allured and enamored by lesser things, we’ll never be satisfied with Christ. We forget what we have. We chase wood, hay and stubble. No woman likes a man with “wandering eyes.” They just kinda creep you out, don’t they? Well, that’s what we are like when we are constantly on the lookout for something better. We have wandering eyes, and it “ain’t attractive” to a woman who professes godliness.

Clinging to Christ sounds desperate, but honestly, clinging to Christ for dear life is what is necessary. “My soul cleaves after you” is the literal translation! It includes submissive faith in God’s plan and an active pursuit of God. If you aren’t clinging to Christ, you are clinging to the wrong things.

“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” vs. 8

I love how Elizabeth George uses the metaphor of a tree’s roots to describe the strength and support that our private time in scripture reading and prayer provides:

“Just like a plant with its roots hidden underground, you and I –out of public view and alone with God–are to draw from Him all that we need to live the abundant life He has promised His children (John 10:10) We must seek to live our lives near to God–indeed, hidden in Him!” A Woman After God’s Own Heart, pg 30

What we do today determines how we weather our wilderness! What steps can you take today to realign your heart to Christ? What lesser things need to go to make room for the most important relationship in your life? Whatever it takes, do it! :)

Why Comparison Steals Your Joy {and how to get it back}

Have you ever had the feeling that life is not fulfilling?

Are you ever unsatisfied with life as you know it?

 

My little girl encountered this on a very small-scale one day when I went announced that we were going to the Dairy Queen. I only had $10 on me, but it was hot, so I told the kids we could drive thru and order cones.

These cones were bought by grandma. Can you tell? :)

All the kids happily placed their order, except one. She pouted, because she wanted a Blizzard. But, I couldn’t afford it, I explained. She continued to pout and slouch. So I quietly ordered 4 cones instead of the 5 I had planned. She was a little shocked. I told her that I knew the cone would not make her happy, so I didn’t get her one. She had set her sights on something that she couldn’t have, which we have all done. (not to mention we have a no whining policy in our home.)

She had a lesson to learn:

Comparison kills contentment and leads to covetousness. (Tweet this)

Do you find yourself wanting more? Can you easily fill in this blank?

“If only ___________were different about my life, I would be happier.”

I am sure our answers all differ, but I can imagine that some of your blanks would say: past, finances, education, marriage, children, school, stage, health, relationships.

We all have things that we wish we could change. But if these things affect our outlook and mood and consume our thoughts, do you realize that you are caught in the trap of covetousness?

Covetousness is that green-eyed monster that wants something more for itself than what God has given.

And Jesus tells us not to covet or want anything belongs to our neighbor. He tells us to beware of covetousness and to be content with all we have, in whatever state we are in.

Have you found yourself in a hard place today? Some serious trouble?

 

You know what I mean by “serious”…things you might be powerless to change: Health problems, way ward children, financial crisis or marriage crisis. Paul was there, too with his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, he prayed three times for God to remove it.

But God’s answer was this: My GRACE is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Not only did Paul embrace his limitation, he also gloried in it. He esteemed it the same way that God did, as a good thing for Paul.

So right now, drop your covetousness. Repent of it. It is a big deal, even in small amounts.

In serious trials, instead of adopting a grin and bear it outlook, adopt a “My grace is sufficient for you” mindset.   Tweet This.

Loving the Unlovely and Other Hard Commands

The Bible is full of “One Another” commands. Commands. Not suggestions. And the way we keep them shows what is going on inside.

It is easy to love those who love us, who are kind and gracious, sweet and pleasant. But it is much harder to love those who are offensive, brash, judgmental and critical, immature, or just plain wicked. But we are called to love, not because the person is worthy of our love. We are called to love because God loves the unjust and does good to the wicked and evil person.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

When we love God wholeheartedly, the “one another” commands flow naturally out of a spirit led, Christ like life. (Some may come easier to us than others to us, but as women who want to obey God’s words, we will fight against our flesh and live the way Christ lived.) When we are not living out the “one another ” commands, we are exposing ourselves as distant from God. And it is amazing how quickly we can waver in our thinking, isn’t it?  One minute, we have great intentions, the next minute we are struggling. The hymn I Need Thee Every Hour comes to mind. :) And sometimes Moment by Moment.

The Peace Offering by Grant Wood

How have you done this week obeying these One Anothers? 

  • Love one another, as I have loved you. (Now there is something to meditate on! How exactly did Christ love me? How far should my love for another go? {sigh…I have some work to do!})
  • Be devoted one to another
  • Serve one another
  • Outdo one another in showing honor
  • Bear with one another
  • Teaching one another
  • Admonish one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Be kind one to another
  • Forgive one another
  • Stop passing judgement on one another
  • live in peace with each other
Remember, this list is not a list of suggestions. It is not just the way we are supposed to treat our friends.
God will give you and me the grace to do His will and to love even the unlovely, unkind, unworthy and unappreciative people in our lives. (God put them in our paths for a reason! )I have learned that those who are abrasive, offensive, bitter and angry are the ones who especially need to see the love of Christ lived out, and given love in return for their hurtful behavior. (old adage: Hurt people hurt others.) Healthy Christians should help bring healing to these hurting people.
Would Christ be pleased with the way you love, prefer, receive, admonish, serve, forbear, forgive, comfort, and edify both your agreeing and disagreeing brothers in Christ? …
How do you treat those in your family? Do you pity instead of attack, delight in rather than cut down; cherish rather than ignore; comfort rather than irritate, love rather than dislike? God assumes that we should love…Do you? If you have not [loved the way you should], whose forgiveness do you need to seek and what needs to change right away?
-Rand Hummel, There4
For a list of 59 “One Anothers” see here.
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